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A path-breaking deal to bolster Indo-Pacific security

17 7 6

It’s hard to appreciate how big a deal the agreement that the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced last week, known as AUKUS, really is.

If it works as advertised, the “enhanced trilateral security partnership” will be a turning point for the Indo-Pacific, the beginning of a deep, structural modernization of regional security.

One measure of its significance is the response. Anger is palpable. China, the unspoken, but unmistakable target, is incandescent. But it isn’t the only government with issues about the deal. While they are mostly supportive of the agreement, U.S. allies and partners also quietly voice some unease. Here are two sides of the argument.

AUKUS is awesome

While attention has focused on the provision of nuclear-propulsion systems for Australia’s next generation of submarines — a technology that the U.S has only provided to one other ally, the U.K. at the height of the Cold War — the new agreement is much more than that. Procurement of nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy is merely the start of a robust trilateral project that will include artificial intelligence, quantum technology and cyber.

U.S. President Joe Biden said the new partnership is about “connecting America’s existing allies and partners in new ways.” It is a significant down payment on the region and the alliance by Washington and the first tangible proof that U.S. talk about a laser-like focus on the Indo-Pacific isn’t empty rhetoric.

Australia is making a real vote of confidence in the U.S. What Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls “the forever partnership” is what an Australian historian called “the biggest strategic gamble in Australian history.” Without question, the deal provides Australia with a qualitative improvement in capability. Nuclear-powered subs can patrol longer, faster, farther and more stealthily than conventionally-powered models.

Some Australians are worried about Canberra’s decision to go all-in with the U.S. Allen Gyngell, former director general of Australia’s Office of National Assessments, warns that Australia will need the U.S. not just for the new technology, but also to operate the new boats. He........

© The Japan Times

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